'Manhunt: Unabomber' preview: Ted Kaczynski's first bomb

Mandi Bierly
Deputy Editor, Yahoo Entertainment

Episode 6 of Discovery’s Manhunt: Unabomber series, airing tonight, is different from the previous five hours. Show co-creator and writer Andrew Sodroski knew, even before he penned the pilot, that he wanted the eight-part series to include a stand-alone episode that explored the troubled life of Ted Kaczynski (Paul Bettany). “I knew that I wanted to have that experience of waking up with Ted in his cabin and going through a day in his life and a day spending time in his mind. That for me was very important for the show, because I feel like there is a version of this show where it’s cop versus robbers — that, I think, could be a great show, but that’s not the show I wanted to make,” Sodroski says. “I always knew that I wanted to break the POV in this radical way and let us come around through the other side and build that weird, uncomfortable empathy before it all came crashing down.”

The episode is framed as a letter Ted is writing to his brother, David (Mark Duplass), on the day he learns that his 35,000-word manifesto has been published in the Washington Post. He’s contemplating how he became the man that he is, a domestic terrorist — and whether he’s capable of change. As you see in the sneak peek above, he starts at the beginning of his story, with the first bomb he ever made. “He had this intense friendship with this boy when he was in grade school, and later he wrote this weird short story called How I Blew Up Harold Snilly, which is a semi-fictional account of his first bomb, which was in chemistry class in grade school,” Sodroski says. “I took a lot of his grade school experiences and condensed them into that one relationship, but there is this way in which, even early on, Ted was trapped in this cycle of getting close to somebody, then betrayal, and then lashing out in this self-destructive way. That became the story of his life.”

Viewers will also see Kaczynski as a student at Harvard University, where he was recruited for a relentless, humiliating experiment by a trusted professor, psychologist Henry A. Murray (played chillingly by Brian d’Arcy James).

“Part of what we’re saying here is that Ted was a victim too. Being able to express that without taking away from the suffering of his victims and their families is this incredibly difficult tightrope act,” Sodroski says. “I feel like part of that actually is that Ted himself in Episode 6 acknowledges that he doesn’t want to be doing this and acknowledges that he wants to change. There is this awareness that what he’s doing is wrong but that he can’t help himself. I think also, especially in Episode 8, [the horror of his crimes] really does come home. There is this scene where the victims are able to give their statements that describe their experiences, and for the first time in the show, Ted is rendered speechless. He has nothing to say in response to that.”

Manhunt: Unabomber airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Discovery.

Read more from Yahoo TV:
‘Manhunt: Unabomber’: How Mark Duplass portrayed Ted Kaczynski’s brother
How Jane Lynch researched Janet Reno for ‘Manhunt: Unabomber’
‘Manhunt: Unabomber’: How Paul Bettany got inside Ted Kaczynski’s mind
‘Manhunt: Unabomber’: Sam Worthington on giving FBI profiler Jim Fitzgerald his due